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Mobile is the great unifier as cross-device advertising takes off

Marketers are increasingly eying cross-device campaigns, with mobile acting as the glue that connects the various elements together to ensure a seamless user experience. However, challenges still exist such as mobile tracking and how to tailor content for each platform.

While interest in cross-device advertising has been around for several years, efforts have taken off in 2013 as consumers increasingly engage with a variety of Internet-enabled devices throughout their day. Marketers are also more eager to funnel a growing portion of their digital budgets to cross-device campaigns because of the strategy?s effectiveness.

?Interest in cross-device is a trend that has been creeping up the past couple of years, but 2013 seems to be a bit of a tipping point,? said Jeremy Levine, senior vice president of digital sales at Live Nation, Beverly Hills, CA. ?With the increase in smartphone and tablet usage, brands want to reach consumers where they are naturally spending time while making sure their message is consistent across platforms.

?Given the technological advances in geo-location, mobile ad serving/tracking and better and more engaging ad units, brands can now create consistent messages while allowing the creative/ad solution to be distinct to each platform leveraging that platform's core strength,? he said. ?This will only become bigger over time.

?Mobile is the one device that consumers have on them almost all the time, at home, work, commuting, during the weekend, out to dinner, at concerts, sporting events, shopping, etc. Given that computers and tablets still remain devices primarily used at home along with the TV, utilizing mobile allows advertisers to be consistently connecting with consumers wherever they are.?

Changing consumer habits
Marketers are intrigued by cross-device campaigns because of the opportunity to reach the same audience across different devices throughout their day, which has the potential to provide greater brand continuity and campaign stickiness.

Changing consumers habits are a key reason for the interest in cross-device campaigns.

?Most people have multiple devices on which they are now concurrently active,? said Craig Elimeliah, vice president and director of creative technology at RAPP, New York. ?Watching TV on a smartphone or a tablet has become commonplace, as is navigating from phone to tablet to computer to TV.

?We now have a much more complex browsing environment in which users are starting engagement on one device and continuing on another,? he said.

Delivery enhancements
The advancements made in delivering and measuring campaigns across devices are also helping to spur interest.

For example, Google Enhanced Campaigns debuted recently, making it easy for marketers to execute paid search programs across smartphones, tablets and desktops with a single campaign.

Additionally, Publicis Groupe and AOL Inc. recently teamed up to create Publicis AOL Live, an end-to-end solution for delivering live advertising across mobile, tablet, desktop and smart TV.

?Fundamentally, cross-device campaigns require three things to execute: premium scale across all platforms, accurate first and third party data linking devices together and an optimization engine to increase results,? said Chad Gallagher, director of mobile at AOL Networks, New York.

?Up until now, companies weren?t able to check off all those boxes thereby making execution difficult,? he said.

Another reason for the growth in cross-device campaigns is the success marketers are seeing with these efforts.

?Clients, regardless of the vertical, are seeing dramatically better results when running a cross-device campaign than if they run a campaign in silo?s on desktop and mobile,? Mr.Gallagher said. ? The days of desktop only campaigns are over.

Agency interest in cross-device campaigns is also strong as the availability improves for data sets that accommodate cross-device targeting.

Understanding user behavior
However, there are still challenges for executing campaigns across multiple devices, including unified reporting, establishing appropriate success metrics based on each device?s unique capabilities and building programs that work for advertisers while adding value to the consumer experience.

?The methodologies used to determine and evaluate cross-channel audiences are widely different,? said Tom Talbert, group director of media services at Lowe Campbell Ewald, Detroit. ?So when a media partner references their ability to target across various screens, understand how they?re arriving at the audience data they are presenting to you.

One of the challenges with cross-device campaigns is understanding how to make sense of users? behaviors across the devices.

Marketers then need to be able to report and act on those behaviors.

?Cross device campaigns now offer marketers a more robust opportunity to tell more contextual stories,? RAPP?s Mr. Elimeliah said. ?Each device tells us what kind of mode our users are in, and the trick is to seamlessly tell that story in a creative way that makes sense at each touch point in the consumer journey.

?The challenges are becoming intimate with each device, the pervasive channels on each device, the contexts those devices are being used in and cohesive storytelling that threads the entire ecosystem,? he said.

?That is no easy task. It takes an expertise in device; technology; user experience; popular and emerging channels and apps; a number of storytelling methods that are native to all of those channels; and a genius to architect this so that it doesn't feel creepy or fall apart at various touch points.?

Mobile tracking
Another challenge for cross-device campaigns is the lack of a persistent cookie for tracking users in mobile, making it difficult to optimize efforts.

Marketers are trying to address this issue in a number of different ways.

For example, advertising technology firms RUN has developed a proprietary product that enables cookie-less ad targeting and conversion tracking across all devices.

?Mobile's role in cross-device advertising is growing exponentially, specifically as a highly-influential step within the purchase funnel,? said Seth Hittman, CEO of RUN, New York. ?This is where the ?holy grail? opportunity for true multi-channel attribution comes into play.

?Without the ability to accurately track consumer behavior on mobile devices, there is no way to truly accomplish a multi-channel, cross-device strategy that premium brands can rally behind,? he said.

Agencies report that cross-device campaigns are getting easier to execute because marketers understand the importance of reaching consumers where they are spending their time. Also, designers and developers are experienced with responsive design and adapting content and messages across platforms.

The challenge going forward is going to stay on top of just how quickly mobile is growing.

?According to Google, 90 percent of all media interactions occur with a digital screen, and we are now seeing what has been previously called the ?second screen? rising up to become the ?first screen? for consumers in more and more campaigns,? said Matthew Witt, executive vice president and director of digital integration at Tris3ct, Chicago.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York